Good student, but can't adjust to employment. Help?

<p>I wasn't sure where to post this. I guess I'm trying the parent thread because it's active and parents generally give good advice.</p>

<p>Anyway, here's the problem...</p>

<p>I'm good at being a student. Doing well in school has always come naturally to me. I have a ~3.7 GPA, I test well on standardized tests, and all my professors like me. I'm a high-performing individual, I'm intelligent, I'm capable, I work well with others...</p>

<p>But for some reason, I just can't seem to adapt to being an employee. Since starting college, I've had two internships and one retail job. I try to do well...I'm a people-pleaser and hate to let anyone down, but despite my best efforts, I just haven't been good at any of my jobs. Being an employee isn't something that comes naturally to me.</p>

<p>Despite being on my third job, everything about working is still really hard for me to get used to. Having a boss hovering over my shoulder (when I'm used to doing my school work independently), having to do the same work for hours at a time (when I'm used to completing tasks at my own pace)'s hard for me. But I think the hardest part is not knowing everything. I know how to be a student, but when I start a new job and know absolutely nothing, it's a crushing blow to my confidence. And as much as I try to improve, I feel like I'm still so far behind everyone else, and that even the other new hires are adapting to the job much faster than I am. I'm usually such a fast learner at school, but at work, I have a really hard time adapting to new roles. I can tell that my supervisors aren't happy with my slow progress, and failure is something completely new to me. </p>

<p>Part of the problem may be that the jobs just haven't been the right fit for me. That's entirely possible. Or maybe I'm just too high-strung and self-directed to actually be a good employee. Who knows?</p>

<p>The problem is that I'm a senior and will be graduating in a matter of months. Whether I like it or not, employment is an inevitable part of my very near future, so I'm freaking out. How do I deal with this? I can't be the only one struggling, right?</p>

<p>What are you studying? Sounds like you might be better working for yourself rather than for someone else.</p>

<p>I think getting a job in a tech field that you have prepared for is very different than working in retail. I'm not sure what you are doing and what you are having a hard time adjusting to. If you are a chem major, but having difficulty working a cash register, well, I really wouldn't sweat it too much. However, if you are having diffculty taking direction, then I think you need to just wrap your head around the concept that you are not the boss, and you need to be a bit flexible during your 40 hours at work. Otherwise, you might want to consider grad school. :)</p>

<p>I felt similarly when I was working part-time gigs. I think at least some of it was all in my head-- and you have to remember that when you psych yourself out you learn slower and make more mistakes, so you're probably exacerbating your situation by letting it get to you too much. </p>

<p>I'm 5 months into my first post-college job now and I'm doing just fine. As it turns out, office work is a lot better than retail. I wouldn't get too freaked out, just do your best and you'll find your niche in the work world just like you did as a student.</p>

<p>I had an employee come into my office asking for help on something that he was working on. He had spent two weeks on it with very little progress and was pretty frustrated about it. I gave him some background information and a few suggestions after looking at the problem and asking several questions. The thing that he was working on was something that I was technically unfamiliar with so I tried generic approaches.</p>

<p>I also explained that we hire people that are very smart and good at individual work but working in a very large organization with very complex products means that you have to work well with others asking for help and setting up a network of contacts to get things done. An employee could work as hard as they want to try to learn the code but it doesn't mean that they can solve many problems - teamwork is required to solve many problems. Often someone knowing a certain piece of information can solve a problem in a moment that would be impossible for someone else to solve.</p>

<p>So frustration at a new job isn't necessarily uncommon. Some companies have good processes for training new hires to deal and cope with this and some companies toss you into the pool to sink or swim.</p>

<p>There are jobs where you get a lot of independence and little supervision (that's what it is like where I work) but you have to deliver too.</p>

<p>I recall my first couple of jobs where I typically worked 50 to 60 hours a week - not because I had to but because I was so interested in the work that I loved doing it. It sounds like you are not really into the work that you are doing or maybe something about it is frustrating to you. There's the old saying that if you do what you love, you'll never have to work.</p>

<p>Perhaps you could be a little more specific about your jobs and what, in particular, you had problems with.</p>

<p>It's difficult to give advice because we don't know what your current job is, what industry interests you or what aspirations you have or your major. However, being in a work environment does take a skill set that is different than being a student. Did you play a sport in high school? If so remember back to what it was like to be on a team and have a coach run you through drills and watch you like a hawk, remember what it was like to be with kids who were faster or better or slower and less skilled but you all had to produce and use the skill sets you had in the most productive way for the team. Work is alittle bit like that....everyone has to master rudimentary stuff and then once you've gone through that people tend to start specializing. I'm sure you are intelligent and it's great that you are a good student those are traits that do carry through. Perhaps work on the job related skills that you feel are holding you back. You can also use what you learn to find the next job....if you have trouble adapting to change then you need a company where your job description is very refined and people tend not to jump from this or that. If working in a team is difficult then look for a job that says self starter. No matter where you work you will have a supervisor or manager and some micro-manage and some not so much...unfortunately sometimes it's difficult to figure this out until you are actually in the position.</p>

<p>All I can say is my oldest son had a job when he started working in restaurants at age 16 and 17 where he was "front of house" interfacing with customers. He realized that he preferred the "back of house" and he stayed back of house in each subsequent job. It was a good learning experience because it "formed" his job search when he graduated from college this past spring. So think about the parts of your job you like and the parts you don't like and let that guide you in finding the next job.</p>

<p>Finally "smarts" are important. Good critical thinking skills, ability to grasp concepts quickly all come into play in a work environment but "street smarts" also are a huge part of those who succeed. So perhaps work on your street smarts alittle and see if that makes the job go smoother.</p>

<p>Funny, but we were just talking about this last night. Being a student was always very easy for my son. He knew what he needed to study, he knew when he had tests and papers, and he thrived in that kind of structure. But it's much harder now that he's out. He doesn't exactly know who his bosses are or how to cope in a less structured environment that doesn't gear up for midterms and finals. Oh sure there are daily pressures, but he misses the structure of school. Is it possible that not only is the job you're doing a poor fit, but you also prefer that school structure?</p>

<p>Thanks for the input so far. </p>

<p>I think a large part of the problem truly has been poor fit. My last internship was at an office that was very slow and didn't have much going on...the downtime drove me absolutely crazy, and made me quite irritable. And my current retail job just doesn't really mesh with the way I think (I'm a very focused, task-oriented person - I like to have an assignment that I work on, uninterrupted, from start to finish until it's done. Unfortunately, my current job requires me to be all over the place...I start tasks, but then have to stop them at a moment's notice if my boss asks me to take over another part of the store, and I'm always stuck juggling a million different things at once). </p>

<p>I'm sure finding a job that fits my personality better will help, but I also know that a big part of it is building confidence. Because school comes so naturally to me, I'm not used to being lost or confused, and I'm not used to being the person who always needs help. THAT'S what I think I'm struggling the most with: being a beginner at something (I was never an athlete either, so this is an entirely new feeling). I'm not really sure how to get over my discomfort with being the new girl. And I think work hours are another spot of difficulty for me...I'm not used to being in a demanding environment for several hours at a time (my college classes have always been spread out so that I only have one at a time, which has left me completely unprepared for long shifts). </p>

<p>I'm not planning on keeping up with my major after graduation (I want to veer off in another direction and get into the business world), but I think Youdon'tsay might have the right idea - I love the idea of working for myself and being an independent contractor (perhaps providing a service to businesses), but I think it's probably important for me to get more work experience first.</p>

<p>Try to seek advise from your college career center. They may be able to steer you toward the most appropriate type of job. </p>

<p>I have a hunch that things will get easier on the job (especially if you like the job) once you don't need to multiplex between the job and demands/distractions of school. Good luck!</p>


<p>Colorado mom has a good idea. there are a number of tests, like Birkman, that can help you understand how you are and how you engage and work with others, I second the motion to go visit your career center and see what they have available to you. It could potentially help you navigate into areas that fit your personality and your work style...which can be very different than how you navigate in the educational arena. It sounds like you've learned alot about yourself. Multi-tasking, switching gears on a dime, juggling many different things with many different deadlines and working within a matrixed organization are intrinsic to various jobs and're one step ahead knowing you probably won't be happy in those types of jobs.</p>

<p>It sounds as if you were unhappy in the job that was too slow and unhappy in the job that is too multifaceted. It is very hard to find a job that is always in the middle. I am at a company with some days that are very slow and others that are very busy with constant interruptions. What we try to do is on the slow days we take advantage of the time to learn something new - we have on demand learning modules available to us - or get caught up on projects that we don't have time for ordinarily. Perhaps if you find yourself again in a "slow" internship you could ask your boss for additional things to do or go and shadow a different department. In this economy, if things are too slow and you can't find things to keep you busy, you probably won't be working there too long anyway. Not many businesses can afford to keep around idle employees. As far as your current position, perhaps you could ask your employer for tips on how to keep organized and efficient despite interruptions. Although different from school, that scenario is very common in busy organizations today, especially those who deal with the public. If there are other workers who seem to be good at multitasking, maybe you could spend some time shadowing them and finding out the techniques they are using to be successful. There is always a learning curve, especially in a busy industry. Even if this type of industry isn't your ideal career path, being able to be a good multitasker will really help you throughout life.</p>

<p>Retail is the worst kind of job - repetitive, customer facing, not very intellectual challenging. There is nothing wrong with you if you don't like it, not every job is like that. As you could see, it is not something I would ever do. There are jobs which would require you to work in a group to come up with a report, work by yourself to complete one task at a time, do research...take a break, have lunch with colleagues, go on a business trip. </p>

<p>There are many different kind of jobs, even in the same profession, you could have different experience depending on the company and people you are working with. D1 just went through 4 rotations at her firm. She loved 2 of them, and hated one. The ones she loved kept her engaged all day, allowed her to go her early (8pm) few nights a week, took her to client meetings. The one she hated would give her nothing to do all day then give her something after 6pm, they ignored her most of the time and treated her like a PA. Guess where she is going to work after her rotations. </p>

<p>Don't be discouraged that your first 2 jobs didn't work out, I think they were just bad fit for you. The only thing I want to warn you is that many entry level positions are not going to be very exciting, you are expected to do a lot of grunt work first. I am a big believer of finding a job which would fit one's personality, that why I encouraged my kids to work and do internship while in college.</p>